Did you know that you can heal sprains, fractures, twisted muscles, and even sores and burns, all with comfrey? It’s rather magical. This herb has been used for centuries to help people treat ailments such as these. This adorable plant with its big leaves and bell-shaped flowers could just have you on the mend if used properly!
Comfrey is native to Europe and Asia and loves to grow in damp places, so England and Ireland are popular growing spots for this herb. It’s been commonly used as an internal and external medicine for centuries, but recently, its internal usage has been under fire.
How can comfrey help you out?
The Government Says Comfrey Not Ok for Internal Use
I love it when governments tell us something is dangerous when thousands of years of use has proven otherwise! Over the years, the internal usage of comfrey has gotten some heat for causing liver damage. Apparently one study, which was done in the 70s, used an animal test (not cool) to inject the equivalent of tens of thousands of comfrey leaves into mice, whereupon their livers failed.
Now, I don’t know about you and your dietary preferences, but I don’t think I’m humanely capable of consuming tens of thousands of comfrey leaves (unless, of course, I’m in the wilderness with no food like my man Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant). So, I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions about whether or not comfrey is safe for internal use, it just seems that study in particular caused unnecessary paranoia about comfrey and some poor mice died for no real reason.
The reason comfrey is controversial for internal use is due to the fact that it contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, otherwise known as PAs, that can cause damage to the cells in the liver. Again, you would have to eat an insane amount of comfrey leaves to be poisoned by this.
I do acknowledge that there are other studies done regarding toxicity with comfrey so draw your own conclusions. I’m not here to advocate for the use of comfrey as an internal supplement—rather as a poultice that can heal sprains and broken bones!
How Does Comfrey Work?
Comfrey contains a compound called allantoin, which promotes cell growth, is anti-inflammatory, and is even a part of the fetus’ development process—yes, the placenta contains this compound as your baby matures, then dwindles as the child grows inside of you. The takeaway: allantoin supports rapid cell growth, but in a good way!
Comfrey is also high in calcium and vitamin C, which is an important component in the healing process. Comfrey is also known as “knitbone” because it’s so quick at healing wounds and broken bones. Allantoin supports connective tissue regrowth and structural support—an all around good thing, I should say!
How to Use Comfrey
Comfrey is traditionally used for bones that are impossible or difficult to cast—such as broken toes or ribs. Comfrey can also be used to speed the healing on numerous other wounds; however, it’s important to ensure no infection is present before using the comfrey. If there is an infection, refrain from applying the comfrey directly, and wrap in a cotton cloth such as a handkerchief before using.
If there’s no infection, you’re welcome to apply the comfrey directly. Making a poultice out of comfrey is often a great way to take advantage of all this versatile herb has to offer. You can use fresh or dried herb! Here’s how to prepare it fresh and dried.
Fresh Comfrey Poultice
- Gather six large leaves (or twelve small ones)
- Chop roughly (with stems)
- Blend or process them with ½ cup of water. You want them to be mostly liquid
- Throw in some flour to help make a paste (gluten-free, corn, almond, who cares!)
- Blend a little more
- Then place into a clean cloth
- Wrap the cloth gently but snugly around the injured area. If you have a broken rib, you may need to lay down to apply the poultice
- You can leave on for up to six hours, or as needed
Dried Comfrey Poultice
- Gather a cup or two of dried comfrey
- Gently pour boiling water on it—you want them to be wet, but not too wet
- Mix flour as needed to make a poultice
- Allow to cool to desired temperature
- Apply in a clean cotton cloth or over gauze and leave on the area for at least thirty minutes and up to several hours
Some notes: Using gauze can help to keep the herbs from coming into direct contact with your wound, something you probably don’t want to happen if you have deep scars or can’t properly clean the little bits of herb out of there. Gauze or a clean cloth can help!
What Else Is Comfrey Excellent for?
Comfrey isn’t just great for wounds and fractures. It can also be used for arthritis, bruises, bug bites, burns, eczema or skin rash, varicose veins, and hemorrhoids. You want to grow this in your garden now, right? Love some comfrey this summer!